A ghola is a creature in the fictional Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. Gholas are created using a technological process created and monopolized by the Tleilaxu. Later in Herbert's series the process is also used by the Bene Gesserit.

A ghola is essentially a clone grown in an axlotl tank from genetic material retrieved from the cells of a deceased subject. The first ghola featured in the series — Hayt in Dune Messiah — is apparently a resurrection of the corpse of Duncan Idaho; later gholas are grown from a few cells, as in the case of subsequent Idaho gholas provided to Leto II in God Emperor of Dune.

The Tleilaxu control their creations by forcing them into a hypnotic state with some predefined sound (often a specific humming or whistling noise).


Before the events of Dune Messiah, gholas are merely physical copies without the memories of their original incarnations. The ghola Hayt is programmed by the Tleilaxu to kill Paul Atreides under post-hypnotic suggestion. The attempt fails and, as hoped by the Tleilaxu, the stress of attempting to kill someone who was deeply loved in the ghola's previous life breaks the mental barrier between the ghola's consciousness and the life memories of the original. Hayt recovers the memories of the original, becoming a full reincarnation of Idaho.

This discovery has tremendous consequences for the Tleilaxu Masters, who subsequently use the technology of axlotl tanks and memory recovery to grant themselves effective immortality. Every Master is "recreated" upon his death with recovered memories, accumulating many generations of knowledge and experience and permitting planning on a timespan of millennia.

In God Emperor of Dune, Leto II has, as constant companions, a series of Duncan Idaho gholas with restored memories of the original Idaho (but not the memories of the previous ghola incarnations). In this novel, the Idaho gholas are perfectly reconstructed incarnations made from 'a few cells', and these can be created in the time span of one to two years.

In Heretics of Dune, the Bene Gesserit become the consumers of Duncan Idaho gholas; significantly, when Idaho recovers his memories, he recovers the memories of all his ghola incarnations, apparently even including previous gholas from whom no cells could be recovered. This suggests a metaphysical commitment that is never explored in the novels.

The original killed in Heretics of Dune, a ghola of military genius Miles Teg is born in Chapterhouse Dune on orders from Teg's own daughter, Bene Gesserit leader Darwi Odrade. His former memories are unlocked using sexual imprinting.

Dune games

There are also mentions of gholas in the Dune games. In Dune 2000, the Harkonnen Mentat is allegedly a ghola cloned from Tleilaxu flesh vats, and in Emperor: Battle for Dune, House Ordos constantly deploy their own gholas in assassination and infiltration missions. This is particularly effective in tricking the Sardaukar and Fremen into allying with House Ordos. On a much larger scale, they plan to use a ghola of the now-deceased Corrino Emperor to claim the Golden Lion Throne, with the Executrix as the true leaders behind the so-called "puppet Emperor".

Possible origins of the term

The term ghola calls to mind both ghoul, golem and ghost. Ghoul originates in Arabic, as do other terms in the Dune series — such as the Butlerian Jihad and the Fremen designation of Paul as the mahdi — and in modern fiction a ghoul is a creature which arises from a dead person. A golem refers to an artificial person out of Jewish folklore. In Dune Messiah, Hayt is even referred to by the Guild Navigator Edric as "A very unusual ghost ..."


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